A university dental school program is teaching students how to care for the teeth of rehab patients.
A school of dentistry training project uncovered a profound link between oral health and successful drug rehab.
Now fixing teeth is helping former addicts fix their lives.
Destiny Garcia says, ” I was a drug addict, homeless, living on the street. I used to shoplift on a daily basis to support my habit.”
Meth and heroin left Destiny Garcia’s teeth looking like this.
Help was coming in the form of dentistry students.
The students were part of a program devised by the school’s vice dean, Glen Hanson.
He’d long suspected oral health would improve drug rehab, and the program proved it.
Glen Hanson, a vice dean at the University of Utah says, ” They noticed that those who were getting comprehensive dental care as part of their treatment, they stayed in treatment for substance abuse disorder two to three times longer.”
Study participants stayed in rehab 300 days, compared to 100 days for those who didn’t get care.
They were two to three times more likely to get a job and stay off drugs. And Doctor Hanson says homelessness almost disappeared.
” Good things are going to happen, both in terms of getting a job, presenting yourself. When you look in the mirror, you have a better feeling of who you are, ” continues Doctor Hanson.
The study’s authors don’t say why the dental program works, but Destiny knows.
Destiny Garcia says, ” When you’re in a drug treatment program, you’re working on your insides so much. And if you don’t work on those outsides to match the way you feel on the inside, people are still going to judge you the same.”
She says her new teeth mean new possibilities and allow her to kiss her baby and her family without hiding her mouth.
Doctor Hanson says not only is this life-changing for clients, but it will also save the state and federal government money in rehab relapse, prison costs, and health care costs.